Image via Wikipedia
I don’t know a lot about hermits, but I suspect that I have something in common with them, at least at times.
From time to time I need to withdraw from society and attempt to be more attuned to the whole world. Driving out the noise of the ‘day to day’ takes practice and it doesn’t mean, for me, being in silence. Daily chores always need doing and noise is part of that, washing, drying, cooking and cleaning, at the very least.
The hermit life that I can enter into is partly about being isolated from social interaction for a while. More importantly it is about being mindful of the wider world, and that usually that entails being open to the suffering in the world.
Being mindful of the wider world, being more attuned to things beyond my little sphere, involves remembering the past, to some degree.
I can’t be everywhere and I can’t really get a sense of the lives of others from the news. I can remember the places and people that I have seen in my life, and suffering has never been far away. I use my memories to remind myself that others are suffering, or indeed laughing, in this world, in all sorts of places.
I have been helped in this exercise by working amongst many people who have had to struggle for survival and for dignity, for equality and for justice. People who have sometimes been unsuccessful. I have been privileged to witness these things both in the UK and in Asia. I have seen laughter in the slums of Asia and tears of sorrow in the eyes of the very wealthy in Europe. To retreat into these memories is to reacquaint myself with the truth of many peoples lives lived today.
In what way I am being a ‘Christian’ in this mode is uncertain. In this mode I am isolated and The Mass doesn’t seem to belong to it. Being part of the church when I am in Hermit mode is difficult for me to be certain of. Being in Hermit mode seems to touch something different in me, something other than my usual experience of engaging with the local parish or the National church.
Being in isolation, being a hermit for a while, is both a blessing, a privilege and, initially at least, seems to be a selfish and remote activity.
In truth, I must be with God, and sometimes that means that I am with Him alone, sort of.
I am blessed with the richness of memory and I am also glad when I am ready to engage once again with society. Having spent this blessed time being attuned to the wider world then my local world seems more vibrant somehow. Being a part time Hermit makes the words that people speak around me and the smiles on the faces of the people I encounter more valuable and more loving, even frowns become more alive.
Lent is a blessed season.